Jack Mackenroth excels in the pool and on reality TV

By Ross Forman
For Outsports.com

It was his mom, Bonnie, who got him into swimming.
She didn’t know how to swim and was paranoid that Jack Mackenroth and his younger siblings – brother Adam and sister Sarah – would drown, but she got him started at age 3. And by 6, he was swimming in competitive meets.

Jack Mackrenroth

Birthday: April 29, 1969
Dating: “Top Chef” runner-up Dale Levitski of Chicago.
Favorite athlete: Michael Phelps
Hobby: Bicycle riding

On the Gay Games:
“The Gay Games in Chicago were great, a great experience. To be in an atmosphere where everyone is very accepting and tolerant, and really just celebrating participation and personal best, it just is a really positive atmosphere. I’ve been to five Games and can’t imagine ever missing one.”

Would you participate in anything else besides swimming at the Gay Games: “I actually thought about it, perhaps bodybuilding, but that’s so hardcore … and I’m not very good at controlling my diet. And I know they have to eat, uh, lettuce leaves and chicken breasts for three months straight.”

At 12, he started swimming twice a day, hard-core training. He quit at age 18 while attending the University of California-Berkeley, but resumed after college, in his early-20s.“Swimming just came fairly naturally to me, and I really enjoyed it,” said Mackenroth, now 38. And he was very good at it, too.
He has three All-American titles and set a national record at the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago in the breaststroke leg of the 4-by-50 meter medley relay. Also in 2006, he finished 12th in the 50-meter breaststroke at the Masters World Championships in Stanford, Calif.
“Swimming has been rewarding,” said Mackenroth, who played soccer and baseball as a youngster and now admits that he, “was hopeless at all of the other sports.”
Mackenroth has participated in the last five Gay Games, and already is planning for 2010 in Cologne, Germany.
“(The Games) are really intense competition, an amazing experience,” he said. “We just swam our asses off (at the 2006 Games), and actually didn’t find out until the next day that we set the national record.
“It was amazing, and having my mom in the audience was really cool.”
Mackenroth, who lives in New York City, is a member of Team New York Aquatics. He is planning to participate in the annual IGLA Championships, set for June 18-22 in Washington, D.C.
And Mackenroth, who is openly gay and HIV-positive, certainly won’t be able to hide the national spotlight anymore. He appears on "Project Runway, Season 4," now airing on Bravo, though he had to remove himself from the fashion reality show due to a staph infection in his face.
“I’m now completely recovered (from the staph infection). I’ve had that before, maybe three- or four-years ago. It just was bad luck, bad timing for me (that it returned,)” he said. “I loved (the experience).” The series finale of "Project Runway" is tentatively slated for late-February.
“I just always have lived very honestly and openly,” he said. “I have gotten so much positive feedback for being an inspiration and great role-model. But I didn’t really expect that going into [the show]. But, I’m glad it’s a secondary affect of being on the show. I think it’s great.”

Related: Mackenroth's website

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